Mini-fridges are energy-consuming appliances that are constantly running. Furthermore, their disposal at the end of the year is costly and hazardous to the environment due to the refrigerant chemicals inside. At Stanford, at the end of every year, more than 1,200 mini-fridges are left in dorms. Stanford cannot legally store these fridges or sell them the following year, so it has to pay about $150 to properly dispose of each fridge. Be certain that you need one before buying one.
Textbooks are crazy expensive. They also can be a waste of natural resources, given that many courses don't even cover all the material in them. One alternative is to buy electronic versions of textbooks. Another is to use the textbook reserves that most Stanford courses have put aside at a campus library; you can check out a book for two to four hours at a time. Using course reserves can help you focus on your work, can save you money, and ultimately can help you avoid the hassle of having to re-sell or mail a rented book back. Talk to your professor about textbook alternatives.
Before you vote in the Nov. 8 election, research your state and local candidates' stances on environmental issues.
No matter what side of the aisle you fall on in the presidential election, many regulations affecting the environment will be decided at the state or local levels. For example, water restrictions in California are set by counties. For all the focus on federal policy, state and local officials will have an outsized effect on the environment. Find out more about on presidential environment stances here and more on the 2016 California Senate candidates here.
Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year. Paper towels have become a fact of life, a central part of daily hygiene. If we managed to save one paper towel per person per day, we could spare more than 571,230,000 pounds of paper. We can do that; it is simpler and easier than you may think. Watch Joe Smith's TED talk on how even the smallest actions can help the environment.
The United States is by far the world’s largest user of paper. Stressed-out college students in need of study materials contribute to this consumption. Printing double-sided -- especially when drafting -- is an easy way to save paper. At Stanford, it also saves money (about 12 cents per page) which means that for three 10-page papers, printing double-sided will yield enough in savings to buy yourself a coffee or a hot chocolate to de-stress as finals approach.
It's 2017 and you probably have a long list of resolutions already. Though it can be hard to keep NYRs, they are worth it. There is no shortage of data about why goal attaining is important and beneficial to us. This year, why not set a goal to live more sustainably? Donate old clothes, shorten your shower times, eat less meat and dairy, or commit to volunteering once a month for a local nonprofit. Stanford offers free sustainability counseling about how you can build sustainable habits. Contact the Office of Sustainability if you are interested in learning more.
If you're a student, leaving electronics plugged in when you're not using them can constitute your greatest type of energy consumption. This will become more directly problematic to you as you move beyond college and have to pay actual electricity bills. Furthermore, overcharging your laptop can destroy its battery lifetime. Check out this chart, which gives estimates about energy consumption when devices are left in a dormant state.
There are plenty of eco-friendly benefits to buy used products. This is a particularly painless option if you're buying something just for the short term. Consider clothes. Many used clothes are in very good condition, and most college students are interested in saving money. If you buy new clothes, there's a sustainable option too: Buy with the idea of longevity, either for you or ultimately for someone else. Used clothes are overwhelming donation agencies; often they end up in the trash. A little planning at the front end can avoid a lot of waste at the back end.
In Roble's rooms, the heating can range from barely functional to baking. Much of Stanford has a fantastic heating system; Roble's is older. It can take up to six hours before you feel the radiator's warmth in the whole room. Plan ahead!
In the winter, in the morning, turn down your radiator, layer up, and, if you feel comfortable doing so, open your blinds to let in the sun’s heat. At night, when you turn your radiator back on, close your room's blinds. That will help minimize heat loss through your room’s windows.
In the hot season, conversely, at night crack the window to let in cool air, and during the day close both the window and the blinds to seal in the cool air that has collected overnight.
A break outside will make you more productive with your studies. Something as simple as a walk around beautiful Lake Lagunita, or a sit and stretch in the Roble courtyard, can improve your mood, regulate your dopamine levels, and give you a dose of Vitamin D. Stanford has done a lot to preserve green spaces on campus. Roble is close to many of them. And if you want to go off-campus this week, use the Santa Clara County's Park Finder to explore a nearby park!
According to the textile-recycling company USAgain, Americans buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980. On average, however, only 15% of Americans' clothing gets recycled. The rest simply heads to landfills. Instead of donating your old clothes, consider giving them to a friend instead. In reality there is only a 15% to 20% chance that clothes you donate to Goodwill will get used again. Some retailers have programs letting you return their clothes to them once you’re done waring them; the retailers recycle the material and make them into new clothes. If you do donate clothes, make sure they are in good enough repair that they’re likely actually to be used.
California, especially in the Bay Area, has some of the country's largest and most beautiful open-space preserves and parks. If you like to bike, Old La Honda and Page Mill roads are great options. If you want to learn a new outdoor activity, check out the Stanford Outdoor Recreation Center and rent supplies at a discount. The outdoor center is home to a full-service rental and retail facility, an outdoor-resource library, a trip-planning area, and one of the largest collegiate climbing walls in the country. It is also a central meeting space for Stanford community members interested in outdoor adventures. Getting outside and hiking can expose you to new species and educate you on conservation efforts. There are many Redwood groves within a half-hour drive of Stanford. Check out this link for more trail recommendations.
Though Stanford makes a great effort to mostly provide in-season fruits and vegetables, many of the staples we enjoy in the dining hall, such as apples and bananas, are out-of-season or are grown far away. The Farm has a wealth of fruit trees -- from orange trees outside the post office to kumquat trees in the Main Quad. The Stanford Gleaners pick a good deal of the fruit on campus, donating it to those who are hungry. To get a taste of Stanford's bounty, use Falling Fruit, a crowd-sourced map of the "urban harvest;" type in Stanford's zip code, 94305.
We're used to buying new things to replace old ones. The tendency can be incredibly wasteful; the longer we can extend the life cycle of a product, the better. Crafting and repairing skills can help build community. Small hole in your pants? Mend it with some needle and thread. Old t-shirt? Tie-dye time! Broken dish? Make it art. For example, maybe you and your roommates have decided you really want a coffee table. Consider repurposing your stackable drawers instead of buying something new.
Power strips consume energy even if they're not charging anything. Furthermore, by not overcharging your laptop or cellphone, you can preserve the battery. Check out this chart, which gives good estimates about wasteful energy consumption when appliances or chargers are left in a dormant, or "vampire," state.